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EU General Affairs and External Relations Council: the Western Balkans

photo: Thierry Monasse

The Western Balkans was one of the main topics of today’s meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC). The GAERC President, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, expressed great satisfaction at today’s Council conclusions, which open up new prospects for the stability of the Western Balkans. Specifically, the Council adopted a conclusion on the EU’s signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia, welcomed the adoption of the police reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which will help expedite the conclusion of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with this country, and made a very favourable evaluation of the Commission Communication on the Western Balkans, confirming the commitment to implementing the communication in full.

In its conclusions on Serbia, the Council of Ministers welcomes the signature of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, and also an interim agreement with Serbia, as an important step on this country’s path to EU accession, and expects to see intensified cooperation with Serbia within the overall framework represented by these agreements and other mechanisms of the stabilisation and association process. The Council recalls, however, that full cooperation with the Hague International Tribunal is an essential element of this agreement. Full cooperation with ICTY will make it possible for the agreement to be ratified by the Member States.

As regards the signature of the agreement with Serbia, Dr Rupel stressed that today’s decision was a great opportunity for Serbia, its people and its path towards European Union membership. “It is, moreover, an important contribution to the stabilisation of the Western Balkans,” commented Dr Rupel. The EU Ministers adopted the conclusion in a unanimous vote after an in-depth discussion. Also taking part in the signature of the Agreement will be the President of Serbia, Boris Tadić. “With the invitation to join the Community, the European Union is sending Serbia a powerful message,” added Dr Rupel.

Dr Rupel noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina had, with the adoption of the police reform, fulfilled all the preconditions for the conclusion of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement as soon as the relevant European Commission and Council Secretariat services have prepared the text to be signed in all language versions. He expressed his expectation that the Agreement would be signed at the May meeting of the Council.

Dr Rupel expressed his positive assessment of the Commission Communication on the Western Balkans and pointed out that the progress needed to be enhanced in all the countries of the region to make the ‘European perspective’ more tangible for the citizens of those countries.


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Date: 02.05.2008